Today we are greeted by the joyful prospect of our first Cattleya coccinea flower of the spring. This plant is flowering for the second time from seed sown in 2014 and this year the flower is much larger, from a larger bulb, at 6cm across.
This wonderful small growing species with large flowers a classic hummingbird pollinated orchid with its startling scarlet flowers held clear of the 5cm leaves. This is one of our top ten orchids and always transports me back to the cloud forests of Brazil. I will take the opportunity of again posting photographs of the species flowering in the wild on our 2001 and 2006 expeditions to Macae de Cima, Near Nova Friburgo.
As the photos show, we found Cattleya coccinea growing as an epiphyte in mossy cloud forests in the Organ Mountains, and the plants here are at around 1200m altitude. Plants were mostly growing in exposed positions where they receive good light, frequent mists, good air movement and cool temperatures. During our visits temperatures were around 12C at night and 22C during the day. It was very noticeable that the forest was dripping every morning from the mists and dew.
New growths have a single leaf that becomes purple in bright sunlight and the flowers are produced from immature growths. The flowers are pollinated by humming birds and are variable in size, shape and colour. Some flowers are rounder, some more angular, and some have considerable yellow on the lip and petals.
This does not seem to be the easiest plant to grow but he challenge is to replicate the plants natural conditions – Cool, wet, bright and windy. It is definitely worth the trouble and the plant flowering today in the greenhouse is growing mounted high in our Cool Americas Section but in a spot that is easy to water so that we can soak it most days.
We still have Cattleya wittigiana in flower – a species found in the same habitat (see both below)
And nearby we have several other Cattleya coccinea plants about to flower. I will post a photo when they are all in flower to show the wonderful natural variation in the spectacular species.